"Oh, Hugh! How could you?" Camellia complained through a mouthful of scrambled egg on toast. She was really cross. "You know it never works. They look uncomfortable, drink only half their tea and leave the first moment they can - and some don't stay even long enough for pretend politeness. I thought we agreed you wouldn't invite any more holiday makers; and he looks such a nice young man!"
"Well, that's the point, isn't it?" said Hugh, concentrating on his plate so he didn't have to look at her. "I wouldn't have invited him if he seemed unpleasant."
Camellia sighed. "And I wanted to start on the drawing room floor this afternoon!"
"I know," he said wearily. "But it's the wrong time. We're always tired after church."
Which was right. Since Camellia's seventieth birthday, they had begun to find the two mile walk rather a trial.. They only took the Land Rover to the village if there was something heavy to carry - like a calf or sacks of kindling, or if they'd be coming back with shopping.
At least they didn't have the church right on their doorstep like some big houses. That would have been unbearable. Hugh always imagined he could hear people thinking about his sheep when they were supposed to be praying and if the sheep were only a couple of hundred yards away it would be even more oppressive. Silence never seemed quiet to him and he knew Camellia found being in the village difficult too. She didn't like to be looked at. Not in the way the people in the congregation looked at her anyway. Sometimes, he thought she would suggest they shouldn't go but, however hard it was, he wouldn't have liked that. It was one of the few links remaining between them and the rest of the world, even if it was uncomfortable. Besides, they had always gone.
"Well," said Camellia huffily. "I'm going to start on the floor. You can entertain."
Hugh examined his knuckles. They were huge. They hadn't been like that when he was a boy, he thought. He was trying to distract himself. He didn't want to admit his eyes were stinging.
Camellia gathered up the plates and didn't look at him either. It wasn't often that they quarrelled.
To continue - Twelve